Having seen all that there was to see in Victoria, I returned to the UK filled with the excitement of the Commonwealth Games and ready for the Games to come to Manchester.
Perhaps one of my best moments on that visit, was seeing Sir Bob SCOTT at the Opening Ceremony in Victoria. Sir Bob, who had failed in his bid to bring the Olympics to Manchester was planning to bid for the 17th Commonwealth Games to be held in the City and he was here in Victoria drumming up support for Manchester.
I asked him if he thought Manchester could host an Opening Ceremony like the one we had just seen. He was convinced that we could do even better.
With around two years to go to the start of the Games, I applied to Manchester 2002, as they were now known, for a position in the Press department. I received a reply telling me that there was nothing available. While disappointing, I told myself that it was because God had something better planned for me.
Little did I realise how true that was.
In January of 2002 I received a phone call from Tim PEMBERTON, a producer from the BBC telling me that the BBC were planning a special radio station in Manchester for the Commonwealth Games. He had heard about me and my visit to Canada and wanted to see me in Manchester to talk about it.
Within 24 hours, we were meeting in a restaurant opposite the BBC in Manchester. Tim was going to be Editor of the temporary station which would last 6 months and would broadcast on the FM waveband on 97.7 in Manchester and around the globe on the World Wide Web. It was anticipated that the station would launch in early March.
I spent the whole of the meal telling him about what I had seen in Canada and what I thought a radio station for the Games could achieve in Manchester. My suggestion was that we should try and build a station that people would miss if they didn’t tune in one day. We must make the station the first choice for information on the 17th Commonwealth Games.
Fortunately most of my ideas were along the same lines as Tim’s and we hit it off immediately. In the end, I was offered a contract for the 6 months of the station as breakfast presenter and I would also be responsible for compiling a playlist for the station.
The station was to be named BBC2002.
Tim PEMBERTON put together a truly awesome line-up for the station with a mixture of new and experienced presenters, producers and researchers.
The presentation line-up was
Mike SHAFT on RISE
THE BREAKFAST SHOW (6.30 – 10.00),
Chris MITCHELL and Jessie ARU
A BIT OF CULTURE each morning (10.00 – 13.00),
DEEP UNDER COVER (13.00 – 15.00),
The RUSH (15.00 – 18.00).
The producer of the breakfast show would be Kaylois HENRY, with reporter James WEST and Researcher/Fixer Sharon TOBIAS. Sharon was also going to present the traffic on the RISE Breakfast show.
After much argument and discussion about what the first record should be, Tim PEMBERTON offered a bottle of wine to anyone who could suggest the perfect song to launch the station. In the end the song that was decided on was Shackles by MARY MARY. I have to admit that I won that bottle of wine.
So it was that on Monday the 4th of March at 6.30am I presented the opening link on BBC2002 Commonwealth Games Radio.
And what a first day we had on BBC2002.
We were determined that the Breakfast show – RISE, would lead the way. Our first bit of good fortune was the news that the then Minister of Sport, The RT Hon Richard Caborn had accepted our invitation to be a guest on our first show.
The competition was won but we were not satisfied…we wanted even more.
As well as the Minister of Sport, also live in the studio was athlete Diane Modahl whom I had met at the 15th Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada. In addition, we also had Sir Bob Scott who spoke to us on the line from Liverpool, where he is attempting to win for them the nomination as the 2008 Capital of Culture. [Yet another success for Sir Bob].
As we got close to 6:30 on that first morning, everyone was tense. Was everything going to work? Were the live guests going to turn up? Would the phones work?
Well the answer was yes to all of the above.
At exactly 6:30 on the 4th of March 2002, I welcomed listeners to BBC2002 Commonwealth Games Radio for the very first time, and we played the wonderful Shackles by MARY MARY. As an emergency plan, we had asked our Managing Editor Tim Pemberton to be on stand-by incase anything went down…we didn’t need him.
At 8:10 we welcomed live on the phone the Chief Executive of Manchester 2002, Frances Done. It was a great interview as she explained everything about the Games and where we were at the moment in the whole scheme of things.
When the Minister of Sport walked in, the big bosses arrived almost simultaneously. There was great tension in the air as producer Kaylois Henry (Miss Kaylois) said on the talk-back, take him next.
To break the ice, I started off by asking him exactly what was going on in Sheffield football. We were off… it was brilliant. He answered all the questions and was very compilmentary about the City of Manchester and about the Games.
The big Games story that day was the fact that some people in the Beswick area were having their TV pictures interrupted by the new City of Manchester Stadium. We were able to hear from the residents and also from the City Council. In the coming weeks, Manchester City Council would provide SKY dishes to help solve the problems.
The first show was a huge success and just before 9:00 we welcomed morning presenters Chris and Jessie into the studio to preview their show. On the dot of 10:00 we went to the News and cleared the studio for Chris and Jessie. Editor Tim Pemberton was delighted with the show and so were the big bosses – Mike Briscoe and Martin Brooks. The Breakfast team then went up to the BBC canteen for breakfast and our debrief.
My favourite bit was speaking to Diane Modahl. She spoke about her sporting career and we spent quite some time speaking about her drug problem which began in Victoria when she was accused of taking performance enhancing drugs. Eventually she would be completely cleared.
We spoke about her plans for these Games as, at this time, there was still a possibility that she would compete, but, no matter how hard I pushed her, she would not confirm whether she would be taking part or not.
I loved that first show, we had arrived on time and had a first show that we were extremely proud of. BBC Commonwealth Games Radio was on the way.
Next time I’ll tell you about the early weeks on Rise – The Breakfast Show on BBC2002 Commonwealth Games Radio..
Studio Photos – James West
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